How To Use Pla Plate Shapes To Elevate Your Gunpla

Tutorials

Previously, Dominic of Total Gunpla taught us how to use pla plates, or styrene sheets, to add custom detail to existing kits. This week, follow along as he outlines a few shaping techniques for adding pla plates to your Gunpla kit. 

See Dominic’s previous post: Pla Plates For Gunpla Modeling 101


After my first tutorial, you should now have some familiarity with pla plates and what they can do. Like our friends at Hobbylink TV and Otaku on a Budget have shown, even basic shapes can transform your Gunpla into a more detailed, custom piece of artistry all your own. 

This time, we’re going to go into a little more detail about cutting out different types of pla plate shapes. Different styles can enhance your project in different ways. 

As we discussed last time, there are three different ways to cut pla plate:

  • Scissors: Best for 2mm thickness and under. 
  • Scriber: For thicker pla plate, you can use a scriber or knife to score lines around your custom part into the plastic.
  • Craft knife: For various thicknesses, use an X-Acto or similar knife. 

Now, let’s explore some of the shapes and techniques you can use. 

Simple rectangles

Let’s start with the basics. To customize your Gunpla, you don’t need to come up with an elaborate design. Sometimes a simple rectangle is all you need. 

First, pick a rectangular area on your Gunpla that you’d like to add detail to. Then, cut a piece of pla plate into the shape of a rectangle a little smaller than the part to be detailed. This way, the pla plate echoes the shape of the part and looks like a natural extension of it. After you cut the pla plate out, bevel the edges so they’re gradually receding at an angle. 

You can glue the rectangle as is, or you can go a step further and add more interest to the piece by cutting it into more shapes. My favorite variation is when you make a diagonal cut through the piece to make two triangles or two smaller rectangles.   

Here’s a photo of the original piece: 

Next, here’s that same piece with a plain rectangle on top:

Here’s the piece with a pla plate rectangle that has been diagonally split for more visual interest. You can see I added too much glue and it’s spilled out on the right side of the part.

One more example of what starting with a simple rectangle can offer in terms of visual interest: on this piece, I’ve cut a single rectangle into two smaller ones. 

Small tabs

Technically, these are rectangular too, but their minuscule proportions put them in a different category. These thin, tiny slices echo the details you may already see on some Gunpla kits, which makes them helpful for adding consistency to your customization. 

To make your own, take a thin (2mm or less) rectangular sheet of pla plate and divide it into 1mm mini rectangles or tabs.

In this example, the sheet I’m using is 1/2mm thick so it can be cut by simply pressing down with the craft knife. Cup your hand over it though to keep the pieces from flying off.

Two vertical tabs painted the same color as the part.

Gluing these tabs on makes for super easy surface details with minimum cleanup.

A pla-plate tab painted green.

Using the edge

Sometimes, you can let the original Gunpla piece inform the shape of your pla plate part. 

Whenever you’re cutting a pla plate piece that is flush with the edge of the part you want to attach it to, you can use that edge to get a more accurate result and save some time. Don’t cut these pla plate edges until after you have glued your custom piece in place. After the glue has set, you can trim it down using the part as a guide and then clean it up. 

Here is a piece where the pla plate extends past the blue piece it is glued to. 

And here is the same piece with the excess pla plate filed off, using the original piece as a guide. I used a set of files to shave it down, followed by sandpaper to finish. 

Multi-layering pla plate

In the previous three sections, I’ve shown you how to shape individual pla plate pieces to add to a model kit piece. But the next level up would be to layer these simple shapes on top of each other for even more elaborate customization. All of the previous steps apply in the same way! 

For example, here is a second layer added to the shoulder armor: 

In this image, I’ve cut out four simple shapes. The two pla plate pieces at the bottom will be glued to the two above with a little plastic cement

The additional difficulty you may run into with multi-layering is that pieces don’t fit perfectly together and look unnatural. You can fix that with putty. After gluing these pieces together, for example, I noticed some gaps between them. I filled these with Tamiya putty, waited 24 hours, then sanded them down.

Now, the pla plate is glued to the actual piece. Note how I’ve beveled the edge of the upper pieces to make them look more natural. Next, I trimmed down the excess plate using my sturdiest nippers (leave your delicate God Hands out of this one!). 

Here’s the final result. You may notice I decided to flip the design around, but the technique still stands. You can also see that I used the edge of the original part to ensure that my pla plate was proportional with the original Gunpla piece. Isn’t it cool how simply layering two basic shapes over one another has created something much more interesting?

Once you’re done adding pla plate, it’s time to paint. After the painting step, it becomes difficult to tell what is an original piece and what is added pla plate! Here’s an example from the back of my MG Psycho Zaku. Can you spot the pieces that are added pla plate?

I hope these techniques get you inspired to start adding pla plate details to your Gunpla. If you try any of them out, feel free to share them in the comments! 


Dominic got his start in Gunpla with a 1/100 Destiny Gundam way back in 2006. At the moment he’s experimenting with new techniques to create models that make people put down their phones and say “That is awesome, I want to make one!” The journey is covered on his blog, TotalGunpla.com.

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